Students and teachers reflect on the legacy of 9/11

By Lilly Waterfall

You can ask any American about September 11, 2001, and they will be able to tell you where they were and what they were doing. That’s not the case for the generation born after 9/11, who only know about the historic day from school or through conversations with family. Student Reporting Labs asked its national network of student reporters to interview teachers and peers about the significance of the day, and why it’s important to learn and reflect on the event. 

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Jaizarlyn Suarez from Howard Blake School in Tampa, Florida interviewed teacher Khadijah Jones. Jones said it was important to her to teach awareness and empathy when it comes to September 11. 

“I think one of the things that we are not good at is that sometimes as educators is bringing empathy into the classroom, it could really just be having a moment to consider those that lost their family members on a day like 9/11. I think it makes all of us a little bit more aware that we all have to appreciate what we have and the safety and security of where we live but I also I think it’s important to remember that at any given time that safety and security could potentially be taken away…I always want to honor the day, I think it’s important that students know about what happened. I think it’s important that we always put politics aside and really just focus on the lives that were lost and the families that were impacted and the city that will be changed forever.”

Emma Hagood from McCallum High School in Austin, Texas interviewed her uncle, Calvin Hagood, who was an airplane pilot based in Washington D.C. he hopes to remind students of the heroes who risked their lives that day. 

“One of the significant things that a student should know is that on a day that had so much violence, and tragedy, and loss of life, that as it was going on, there were a lot of good people. Men and women, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, that we’re going into danger to rescue people, to save people, and some of them did, and some of them lost their lives after trying to do so.”   

Noemi Torres, a senior at Northview High School in Covina, California explained why it’s so hard for the younger generation to truly understand 9/11. 

“Being born after 9/11, it’s just weird to think about because you almost don’t think of it as real, because our generation has never seen the Twin Towers as it is. Like we’ve never seen what they look like, we’ve only seen videos or pictures of it, to think that one of the planes might have been heading to the Capitol or the White House, what would have happened if we never saw those buildings. So being born after it, it feels like it’s not even real sometimes.”

RELATED: How 9/11 weighs heavy on the generation born after the 2001 attacks

Miles Gilliland, a student at Howard Blake School in Tampa, Florida interviewed his father, Mike Gilliland, on how prejudice rose in the United States after 9/11.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t more vigilant. You look at people a little differently, because you just don’t know. I think that’s a human reaction and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that you know but, there’s a fine line, and what we saw then and unfortunately continue to see today and a lot of hatred being expressed to people who have nothing to do with any of that”

Michael Miralles, a student at John Henry High Schools in Richmond, California interviewed chemistry teacher, Liam Dillow, on how he learned about Muslims and how it inspired him to get into teaching.

Immediately after 9/11 happened it was like, these people are going to pay. My daughter got into a charter school, but then I found out the school was run by people who immigrated from Turkey, and at first I was very distrustful. I was like what are these people doing here from Turkey, that’s a Muslim country. So I started volunteering at the school just to get to know people better, and it turns out that the school leadership there was just amazing, they were the kindest, most caring people. I thought like, ‘here we are going to the Middle East and bombing Muslim countries, but they’re coming to our country and starting schools and educating our children.’ I felt that if they had that in their hearts, that they were really amazing people, and that’s what got me into education. That’s why I went back to school to become a teacher.”

Yara Ahmed, a freshman at the University of Utah talked about how 9/11 affected her life as a young Muslim women in the United States. 

“We became more aware of our Muslim identity, and how others may perceive us after that day. It’s heartbreaking how many people passed away on that day, and I’m sure their families still feel their effects, but I feel like the forgotten group in America after 9/11 was the Muslims that felt immense discrimination.”

Jazmin Proby, a sophomore at Morgan County High School in Madison, Georgia explains the generational gap when trying to understand 9/11. 

“Being the first generation born after 9/11, I often feel like I can’t relate with others because I didn’t experience the event myself, but from hearing what they have to say, I feel like I can connect with them.”

Henry Katz, a student at Howard Blake School in Florida interviewed Katherine Hill on why the everlasting effects of 9/11 is important to teach.

“I find it really important that young people know what happened and why it happened and that it should never happen again. It’s important that kids have an understanding, because I think the further we get into the future, the further away this event is, because younger people didn’t live through it, what they don’t realize is that the world has changed.”